Georgetown has been plagued for decades with serious flooding issues. Monday morning, despite the expenditure of some $14 million in city, state and federal funds, streets throughout the city were blocked off during a heavy rain.
And the source of all of those funds are taxpayers.
After the disastrous sinkholes were formed — just ask Tony Jordan and others whether they were a disaster — the foam injected below ground came floating up to the top in the retention pond by City Hall.
Several cars were temporarily abandoned by their owners after they drove the flooded streets of Georgetown. Some were parked overnight. At least three will likely need to have their entire electrical systems replaced.
Work is ongoing on the drainage project.
The question for residents and businesses in Georgetown is, “Are we better off now than we were $14 million ago?”
Another question: Was it really necessary to spend $14 million?
It’s true that the project is not yet completed. It may be that when it’s finished, residents and motorists won’t face flooding like they did on Monday.
But who knows?
In a front-page story today, we present some information on these issues. We’ve asked several City of Georgetown officials about the problems that came up Monday, and the answers we’ve received are in the story.
It’s ironic that one of the places that was surrounded by flood waters on Monday was the nice, brick pumphouse on Front Street next to City Hall.
It’s also worth noting that the sinkhole mess still hasn’t been resolved.
Tony Jordan’s Parrish Center where he and his wife had a UPS Store on Fraser Street is still vacant and open to the weather. That’s in the aftermath of a portion of the building collapsing into a sinkhole last fall.
Other buildings in the area where drainage work has been done still have their cracks. Some businesses were forced to move, or close.
These businesses and homes were damaged through no fault and no action of their owners, but just about everyone believes the drainage project and dewatering were either the cause or at least contributors to the sinkholes.
It’s way past time for the City of Georgetown, the S.C. Department of Transportation, the engineers and the contractors responsible for the drainage project to be forthright.
If the drainage project and dewatering caused the sinkholes, say so. The thousands — perhaps millions — of dollars’ worth of damage and loss of business should be made whole.
On July 19, City Council members voted to authorize two payments of $375,000 each to the S.C. Department of Transportation for … well, we don’t know. The agenda item does not say. And, there are no attachments in the 208-page agenda packet that explain in any way what the money was for.
It’s a safe bet it was for the drainage project, but who knows?
The packet simply states: “Points to Consider: The payments made to SCDOT will be reimbursed to the City through the $3,000,000 FEMA grant.”
And we’ll ask again, why did a complicated project like this one have to be done in the first place?
Thousands of acres of tidelands in Georgetown County were irrigated for rice for decades and decades. No diesel pumps were involved. Rice trunks that worked on gravity and tidal flow let the water in and out. The flood gates were adjusted manually. No other mechanical means were used.
The area where the steel mill now sits used to be part of a creek. Prior to 1968 when the mill was built, there was little or no flooding in that part of town. Many long-time residents recall the creek, and kids fishing there.
Part of what was once the DRI mill was torn down and fed into the furnaces to make new steel wire rod. That land could be used for a close approximation of the centuries-old natural flow of the creek bed.
That could be set up for what some have estimated to be a few million dollars.
Regardless of any ordinance passed by City Council or regulations of the state Department of Transportation, water follows the law of gravity and simply will not flow uphill.
That’s what the current plan calls for, though, using pumps and pipes that can be clogged. The $14 million project sends water uphill, around the steel mill and then back down to the Sampit River.
We’ve asked several City officials to fill in the blanks for a lot of these questions.
They’ve provided some answers, but there are still many unknowns.
The people of the city and county of Georgetown deserve better answers.
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